(Photo: Reuters/Chris Keane)
Franklin Graham said he is still waiting for President Obama to respond to his letter about Internal Revenue Service agents' possible targeting of Tea Party and conservative groups, including the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan's Purse that he leads.
"I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt," Graham said during an interview with Fox News' "Hannity." "I like the president. I think he's a nice person. I disagree with him on many of his policies, but at the same time I wanted to write him and let him know that we suspect that we were targeted. Would he look into it? But I have not heard a reply yet."
Lois G. Lerner, the director of the Exempt Organizations Division of the IRS, told reporters last month that several organizations carrying the words "tea party" or "patriot" in their exemption applications were singled out by IRS agents for additional reviews between 2010 and 2012.
Graham, the son of evangelist Billy Graham and who serves as president and CEO of the BGEA and heads the Samaritan's Purse, told host Sean Hannity he doesn't think Obama knew about the IRS targeting.
Graham wrote to Obama on May 14, saying, "I am bringing this to your attention because I believe that someone in the administration was targeting and attempting to intimidate us. This is morally wrong and unethical - indeed some would call it 'un-American.'"
"Mr. President, the IRS has already publicly acknowledged it operated in a less than neutral and nonpartisan way. We also now know that the target of their improper actions was much wider than political or Tea Party organizations. Will you take some immediate action to reassure Americans we are not in a new chapter of America's history - repressive government rule?"
Graham told Hannity the BGEA and the Samaritan's Purse were intimated by IRS on Sept. 6 last year when the organizations were being audited. "The IRS has the right to audit, Sean, that's not an issue. But we're two separate corporations, two different board of directors, different cities, different (IRS form) 990s. For us to both be notified by a letter dated the same day to me is a little suspicious."
Hannity responded jokingly, "I can see auditing you. But your father I can't see auditing... We're going to audit the Rev. Billy Graham?"
"Having the IRS come in wasn't a concern to me," said Graham. "What was a concern, are we targeted because of our religious beliefs? …I think that maybe this was an attempt to intimidate us or maybe payback because we spoke out on a moral issue and we prevailed in North Carolina."
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney has claimed the IRS action was not politically motivated and the Administration wasn't aware of the issue until Lerner's admission.
Lerner, who administers and enforces the tax laws that apply to organizations recognized as exempt from tax, has said the move was not political, and apologized for "mistakes" and lack of "good judgment" by low-level employees. "Sometimes people do things because they don't understand the rules or don't think about it."
However, Republican Rep. Darrell Issa, one of the investigators from a bipartisan group that interviewed employees of the Cincinnati Internal Revenue Service office recently, has said he highly suspects the IRS targeting was directed from Washington. "My gut tells me that too many people knew this wrongdoing was going on before the election, and at least by some sort of convenient, benign neglect, allowed it to go on through the election," Issa, chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, said on CNN's "State of the Union."
"I'm not making any allegations as to motive, that they set out to do it, but certainly people knew it was happening," Issa said. "This is a problem that was coordinated in all likelihood right out of Washington headquarters and we're getting to proving it."